I don’t believe in God. Should I attend Church for the benefits?

I am not a religious person. I don’t see any evidence that leads me to believe in God as described in the Bible. There are just too many things that don’t add up, too many things that I would have to consciously ignore, and I can’t do that.

My wife on the other hand enjoys the comforts of religion. I think part of her sees me as arrogant and foolish for ignoring that God exists. She’s no fool. She see’s the holes in the Bible as well as I do, but for her she feels it. My wife is an emotional creature driven by what feels right. She’s sensitive, artistic, and loving – all of this is why I married her. And part of me knows that church, the community, and the comfort would be good for her (and our relationship).

I don’t consider myself an Atheist though. I think to be an Atheist you have to be confident enough to say there is no God. I am not that confident. I admit the possibility of some higher being, a creative force, perhaps intelligent, perhaps (and more likely) something beyond our understanding – beyond out ability as humans to sense or perceive it. If there is a higher power I doubt (s)he has anything to do with our lives and unlike my wife – I don’t find much comfort in the idea (or going to church).

For the last 10 years I have been stubborn about attending church and sometimes about religion itself. When I attend church I see a bunch of hypocrites. I see a bunch of people who “believe” in a God, who has established these strict rules, but doesn’t follow any of them. I hate the idea of cherry-picking the parts of the Bible that are convenient. These are some of the things that bother me.

At Church there is an expectation that I believe and celebrate the God as described in the Bible. I see people around me praising God, raising their arms in the air as if praising the God of Thunder, and I feel like a hypocrite – like an idiot participating in it. I feel like a hypocrite for being in church and to myself for spending time (wasting time?) in a place when I could be doing something more productive.

I also know that focusing too much on your “feelings” is no way to make decisions. The reasonable part of myself knows there are two sides of this Church-equation so I break it down into pros and cons: Should I attend Church?

Pros:

1. This is a good community and support group for my Wife (and me).
2. There are a lot of good people in Church (great networking opportunity).
3. Churches provide many good resources (child care, athletic facilities, community).
4. Being known and liked by a large group could be beneficial politically and financially.

Cons:

1. My wife and child may rely on something that is not real. How will this affect their decision making? Is it healthy?
2. I will have to compromise my beliefs.
3. Church would mean a large time commitment each week.
4. The implications of exposing my family to a largely fictional belief system.

When I examine the costs and benefits of going to Church I find that it would probably be a net benefit to attend. I would gain connections, my wife would have a sense of emotional comfort and moral compass that she craves, there would be numerous social and economic gains, and my family would be surrounded by a group of positive and well connected individuals.

The down side is that I would have to accept that I am going to church for non-religious reasons. I also worry about what I am doing to my family. Is it evil to expose my family to a lie even if that lie is a net positive in their lives? Do the positive result justify the philosophical negatives?

What if I am honest with my daughter and wife? I explain that church is a positive social organization, but they should be critical of the teachings? Can you enjoy the benefits of church and ignore the teachings? Can you separate the fiction from the good lessons? I suppose you can – everyone has read Harry Potter, right?

If I made positive relationships, did good for the community, and used this new resource as an overall benefit to society would I still be an impostor? Would I be a hypocrite? Would I be wrong for doing so?

I guess the problem with being an ideological purist is that it doesn’t leave a lot of room for pragmatism. I’m not an ideological purist (I wouldn’t know which ideology to be pure about), but I’m also not a manipulator or liar. So what should I do?

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9 thoughts on “I don’t believe in God. Should I attend Church for the benefits?

  1. trotter387

    Enjoyed the blog and understand the issue.

    Hypocrisy remains hypocrisy if it doesn’t resonate and you understand that the worship you see there does not reflect what it should promote them you have to weigh up how you feel about the deception.

    Xmas and father christmas are exactly the same thing as adults we know that the whole celebration is a total fiction designed to stop converts returning to celebrate pagan festivals and father christmas is a commercial tool. We know it is all lies. Do you celebrate christmas? If you do you will find it easier to rationalise going to church although you don’t believe what is taught.

    Personally I don’t celebrate christmas but remain a Christian – as Jesus is reported to have been 33.5 years old at his death (we know from the time of the census in 2bce and died at passover 33 ce) his birth had to have been in October. It has never been hidden from students of the bible but the churches teach something based on a lie.

    Accept the lie and everything works.

    Reply
  2. Cheryl

    As a Catholic who does believe in God and the church, I have to tell you I never would or could think of going to church for financial gain, child care, the athletic facilities, or networking. I go to church for the peace it gives me and being with people who believe in Jesus and God and want to be close to him, but that is just me. Cheryl

    Reply
    1. Atticus C. Post author

      You use church in your own way though, right? For the comfort it provides, for the community, and to be surrounded by like-minded people. All of those things are unrelated to the work of God in the bible – yet you benefit from them.

      I’m not saying that you are wrong for that because you aren’t wrong, but I don’t think there is any reason not to recognize the benefits of church beyond the religious aspect.

      I am kind of surprised that people aren’t telling me to go to church, regardless of the reason. Aren’t the people you want most in the church non-believers?

      Reply
      1. Cheryl

        I think God and church is a very personal thing. Who am I to tell you to go if that is not what you believe. My dh is a very good man but only has gone to church maybe ten times in 24 years of marriage. All those times were for my kids confirmation,baptism, and holy communion. Would I like him to go with us as a family, very much. I can only live my life with God and hope teach my kids to live the way I believe. Cheryl

        Reply
  3. stephyces

    Well written. I appreciate the honesty in this piece. I believe you when you say you are not an atheist, because you seem to humble to be one. I believe a lot of things you said were true, about the church. Of course there are so many different denominations, styles, and sizes of churches, so I’m curious to know what kind of church this is that you and your wife attend. I attended my church for several years as a non-believer, non-follower of Jesus Christ, and yet the benefits of being part of one was incredible. I saw my entire family benefit from being a part of the church; we owe them a lot. It wasn’t till later that I personally received The Lord, and truly became a Christian.

    I challenge you to read or listen to people such as Ravi Zacharias, C.S Lewis, who are brilliant at addressing the skeptic. I think it’s personally awesome that you are willing to do something you might not want to for the sake of your family, that’s selfless, that’s Christ-like. God bless.

    Reply
  4. alicia

    As an ex-Catholic, I totally understand what you are saying. I was beaten by the nuns when I went to Catholic Grammar school and no parent or teacher stepped in to help me. I vowed never to step inside a church ever again once I got out of this particular school and I haven’t. My experience, however, never swayed me away from my belief in God, my heavenly father in heaven. He has been watching over me and saving me from many terrible things ever since. The nuns could have beaten me to death but I never swayed from my belief in God, for in the end He did save me because I was expelled out of this particular school in the sixth grade. And went to a new school that had only loving, caring teachers who changed my life and gave me back a positive attitude. I was only 10 years old.

    Going to a church is meaningless. Having a personal relationship with God is amazing! He hears me and I hear Him. God never fails me. He is constant and unchanging.

    Whether you believe in God or not is immaterial. Jesus was just a man, and if you simply read his teachings and listen to his logic, he will astound you! If you don’t want to believe Jesus was the son of God, that’s fine. Regardless, Jesus was still an amazing human being, who, without lifting a sword, brought so much peace and joy to the earth.

    Merry Christmas and I wish you much peace and happiness in your life. I hope one day you find your way.

    Reply
  5. Jason Cross (@jasoncrosslive)

    It’s a very cursory view, but I outline some of my own struggles with organized religion, a crisis of faith and some of the things that I couldn’t ignore. Maybe it would be helpful to you. No judgment here–i think time with your wife and good in your community would be beneficial no matter what. Just in the process, don’t pretend to be something you’re not–if the group will allow that. If so, go for it! Here’s a link to the post I referred to:

    http://www.jasoncrosslive.com/2015/02/25/when-i-lost-my-faith/

    Hope it’s helpful.

    Reply

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